Anyone traveling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and reading the signs along the way will notice a very interesting phenomenon. From Tel Aviv until Sha’ar HaGai, at the entrance to the Jerusalem hills, these signs include the Arabic name of the city, the signs say Urshalim (Al-Quds), and Al-Quds is placed in parentheses. But after Sha’ar HaGai, along the new road which has been paved in the last few years, the name of the city changes to Urshalim only. Whoever travels on other roads to the city can still find old signs which will say Urshalim-Al Quds without any parentheses.

In order to understand this strange phenomenon of the names of the city changing with time we have to go back to September 1967. Three months after the conquest of East-Jerusalem and its unilateral annexation to the State of Israel, Israeli ministers protested to the minister responsible for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, Yisrael Galili, that Voice of Israel in Arabic used the name Al-Quds, which they said was of course a name with Muslim connotations. “Every day and every hour they repeat the impression that Al-Quds is a Muslim city,” said the minister of police, Eliyahu Sasson.

Urshalim, a Name that No-One Uses

Galili therefore proposed to add the name Urshalim, an ancient name for the city in Arabic which was preserved in the Christian holy writings, and to create the name “Urshalim Al-Quds” as the official name of the city. This proposal was accepted, and together with it was accepted a proposal by Minister of Postal Services Yisrael Yeshayahu that “we will temporarily use both names and with time will drop the name Al-Quds”. As can be seen on the road to Tel-Aviv, the evolution of the name shows that Urshalim is pushing out Al-Quds.

So at the beginning they were two equal names, alongside each other, afterward’s Al-Quds was placed in parentheses, and in the end it was deleted entirely. Despite this, in reality there is no place called Urshalim. No Arabic speaker uses this name, and it also symbolizes in the eyes of many the occupation and the effort to eliminate the Arabic and Muslim heritage from the city.

But meanwhile the fact that the city has two names, one used by the people and the other by the government, is a unique phenomenon. This is one of the anomalies of Jerusalem, but it is not the only one and it is apparently one of the smaller ones. In actuality, the best definition that I know for today’s Jerusalem is that it is a place of administrative and governmental anomaly.

Residents, but Not Citizens

The biggest anomaly is the fact that almost 40% of the residents of the capital city of the State of Israel are not Israeli citizens; they are Palestinians with a legal status of residency. Professor Yael Ronen recently published a study (in the book by Amnon Ramon, “Residence not citizens”) where she states that this is a situation which does not exist in any other place. “I did not find any examples or cases where a country took over an area and applied its sovereignty without enabling in an active way the residents of that area to become its citizens”.(Ramon page 366). Ziad Abu Zayyad said once that Israel referred to Palestinians in Jerusalem as "70,000 Jordanian tourists who happened to be in Jerusalem when Israel occupied the city in June 1967".

The status of “residents” means that the Palestinians have the right to free mobility throughout Israel, the right to social security, to free education and to freedom of employment. Due to reasons of accessibility, knowledge and systematic discrimination, the residents of East-Jerusalem do not receive the full benefits of their rights as do the other citizens of the state, but the most important thing is that their legal status and their rights within Israel, in contrast to the rights of the Israeli citizens, can relatively easily be denied. The threat to their legal standing and rights has tremendously influenced the life of the Palestinians in the city. As of today, Israel has revoked the status of more than 14,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites. Most of them lost their status after they were unable to prove that their “center of life” is found in Jerusalem, in other way that others have left the city.

Leaving can also mean crossing the streets to Abu Dis or Al-Ram, which are outside of the municipal borders after the annexation. This fact has created another anomaly – a large urban population that is clinging to the city at all costs and is not moving to the suburbs. This is because the loss of legal status in Israel means the loss of a connection with the city of your birth and often with members of your family, the loss of the ability to travel freely, to work, to study and to receive social benefits. In order to demonstrate to what degree the situation of the Palestinians who stick to Jerusalem is unique, let us examine other populations in Jerusalem. The ultra-Orthodox Haredim Jerusalemites who migrated from the city have established no less than three medium size cities – Beitar Illit, Modi’in Illit and Ramat Beit Shemesh. The secular Jews who left Jerusalem are a significant portion of the population of Modi’in, Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel. By contrast, the Palestinians remain in the city at all costs, even if the cost is to live under very difficult conditions.

While Jews Leave, Palestinians Stay Put

This clinging to Jerusalem also explains the growth of the Palestinian percentage of the population within the city, from 25% in 1967 to almost 40% in 2017. This, despite the great effort on the part of the Israeli government to encourage the migration of Jews to the city efforts, which included the establishment of 10 very large neighborhoods, many of which were bigger than some of the smaller cities in Israel, on territories which were annexed in 1967 and were confiscated for that purpose.

At the same time, the Israeli authorities and Israeli politicians ignored the needs of the Palestinian population in the city. This neglect stems in part from a demographic policy aimed at preventing the relative growth of the Palestinian population in the city, and in part, from the fact that the decision about the legal standing of the residents of East-Jerusalem together, with their boycott of municipal elections, left them outside of the political playing field, lacking in electoral power. Each and every time that a mayor, or a minister, had to make a decision about the channeling of resources, they chose to do so without taking into consideration the needs of the people who never voted for them.

Thus, with increasing population density on the one hand and the political neglect on the other, Palestinian neighborhoods grew huge and impoverished. They are like the Brazilian favelas, with a serious lack of roads, infrastructure, public buildings and open areas, with a large percentage of the buildings having been built without legal permits or organized plans. In this way, the legal anomaly concerning the status of the Palestinian residents determined their urban landscape and the nature of their relationship with the government.

The Daily Anomaly on Route 1

But the Jerusalem anomaly is spreading into much broader areas. Every day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon a police car arrives at the end of Naomi Kies Street, where it connects to Route 1. The police-car parks along the side of the street, making it impossible for drivers to turn left into the main road. At 5 in the afternoon the police car leaves. This strange arrangement continued for many years. With time the method was improved, and instead of parking a police car along the length of the street, the policemen come and tie a red police tape between the traffic lights in order to block the passageway. The purpose of these road blocks is to ease the burden of the traffic on Route 1 during rush hour. Every Jerusalemite, whether he or she lives in the east or the west of the city, knows that it is impossible to imagine a police car doing something similar on the other side on the road, which would block a Jewish neighborhood on a regular basis, every day, in order to ease the traffic.

It’s possible to raise other questions: Would the police close streets in a crowded Jewish neighborhood in order to enable a Palestinian national parade, or even a non-national Palestinian parade – as it does every year for the flag parade on Jerusalem Day? Would the government have approved the building of a wall which would cut across a Jewish neighborhood from the rest of the city, even if it were a particularly unruly and difficult neighborhood? Is it possible to imagine a situation where hundreds of stores on Jaffa Road, the main street in West Jerusalem, are closed because of a stabbing incident in the street? Would the municipality receive from the police a list of Jewish criminals in order to determine whether to apply fines on family members connected to parking or business registration, in order to punish them beyond the accepted punishment within the Israeli criminal justice system? All of these things happen on a regular basis in East-Jerusalem, and we cannot imagine that they would happen in the West.

Hybrid Governmental Creations

It is not only with respect to the police that East Jerusalem is a place where the government system works differently from everywhere else. It is possible to say that East Jerusalem has become a singular bureaucracy, a place where regular laws and regulations collapse, and in their place new ones are invented. The educational, transportation and health systems in the eastern part of the city are run in an entirely different manner from everywhere else in the State of Israel. These large public systems are operated separately from those in the western part of the city, by means of private entrepreneurs who mediate between the Palestinian population and the Israeli authorities. The researcher Oren Shlomo wrote a doctoral thesis on the subject of “The Governing of East-Jerusalem.” He defined these arrangements as “sub-formal” arrangements or “hybrid governmental creations.” He wrote as follows:

“These are arrangements within which agencies on behalf of the State become involved in the municipal service systems which operate in an unarranged fashion with the goal of managing and applying the informal activity of the state mechanisms thus increasing the level of control over them. At the same time, these arrangements do not suit the administrative norms that are accepted in the state itself in terms of standards of activity, regulation and the level of their relationship to the state system”. (Oren Shlomo, – The governing of East- Jerusalem in the post-Oslo period and the management and control of three municipal services, doctoral thesis, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, p.3).

In addition, concerning everything connected to the international standing of Jerusalem, we will not find any similar instance in the world of a capital without embassies and without the recognition of any government or any other international body.

Three Plans for Jerusalem

The anomaly of Jerusalem is expressed also in the way the planners decide the future of the city. Three plans are circulating in the Israeli political system concerning Jerusalem in recent years. The first one, which is being advanced by the right-wing branch of the Likud, speaks about the municipal annexation of settlements around the city. The second plan, which is being advanced by former minister Haim Ramon and members of the Zionist Union Party, speaks about a unilateral disengagement from the majority of the Palestinian neighborhoods and the establishment of a new separation barrier between them and the rest of the city. The third plan, being advanced by Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze’ev Elkin, speaks of detaching the Jerusalem neighborhoods that remain on the other side of the separation wall and establishing of a new municipal authority for them under Israeli control.

Among the three, the last proposal has the most realistic chances of being realized. But what the three plans have in common is that the Israeli political system understands that the problem called Jerusalem has to be dealt with. After 50 years of occupation, annexation, construction and the constant repeating of slogans about Greater Jerusalem being an inseparable part of the State of Israel, it seems that Israel has failed in this project. United Jerusalem did not become an integral part of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, there is something else that the three plans have in common. All of them are unilateral; they all ignore the needs of the Palestinian residents of the city, are aimed at solving problems related to the Israeli public, and they all cut Jerusalem off, in an artificial manner, from the greater Palestinian hinterland that surrounds it. In other words, the Israeli political system has already understood that Jerusalem is an anomaly that has to be solved. But it still doesn’t see the other side of the equation, and does not recognize the place of the Palestinians in the city.

The Israeli Jerusalem Project Has Totally Failed

The discourse around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a tendency sometimes to present Israel as an almost unlimited power which can force its will on the Palestinians and on the international arena. There is no doubt that concerning the Palestinians, Israel has a strength that cannot be ignored. It has managed for 50 years to apply its will on Jerusalem and on the West Bank and has managed block international criticism of its behavior. But Jerusalem's anomaly teaches us that Israeli power is not unlimited. After 50 years of tireless efforts, Israel has totally failed in its Jerusalem project. The percentage of the Palestinian population in the city continues to rise, to the chagrin of the Israeli government. The city is not united, it has no international recognition and, most importantly, the Palestinian population refuses to accept its inferior standing. Thus, anyone who believes that a solution should be based on a diplomatic and egalitarian negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and not on one-sided coercion by one side against the other, can draw a certain amount of encouragement from the Jerusalem anomaly.